Chronic Shame Creates Masks

I was 9 years old when AIDS entered my consciousness, putting a dark stigma became attached to being homosexual.  The facts that I knew of AIDS came from what was gleamed from the deaths of Anthony Perkins and Robert Reed, effectively connecting homosexuality with death, separation, and sensationalism.  This opposed the previous generation of the 1960s and 70s, who found a footing after Stonewall pushed back underground and took on a seedy 8mm feel.  In the pre-internet era, there was limited ability to connect to others in the homosexual subculture, which could counter my first impressions.  These circumstances led to low queer acculturation particularly if someone lived away from gay neighborhoods in urban areas.  Growing up independent of a greater knowledge of homosexuality, I never became interested in homosexual culture, liberation/movement, camp, or fashion.  With limited exposure to homosexuality my development stagnated with a malleable inauthentic identity, designed for avoidance.

As I grew up I struggled with the idea that there was something false and untrue about my place in the world, only to realize that those feelings come from the fact that I was not living with authenticity.  In reaction to this I created a false self that wasn’t defective or flawed.  I diluted or ignored the parts of myself that I thought would alienate me from those around me.  When a false-self was created I ceased to be an authentic human being.  The psychologist, the late Alice Miller calls this “soul-murder” – toxic that leads to believing that they are a failure. Self-contempt, isolation, and a strong sense that they are untrustworthy are also feelings which accompany those who believe themselves failures. Shame became my core identity, shutting me down to human relationships, living in hopelessness, and locked in a set of very unhealthy beliefs.